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What is The Anti-COVID Pill And How Does It Work?

It will be tested soon in Filipino households.

An anti-COVID pill called molnupiravir is the first oral method that could potentially treat COVID-19 after studies showed it can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from the virus.

The pill was developed by pharmaceutical company Merck in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics in the United States and Canada. The Philippines is among the countries that participated in the worldwide initial clinical trial with a total of 27 volunteers, according to Dr. Beaver Tamesis, president of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP).

The anti-COVID pill is set to be conducted in Filipino households by the second week of November. Here’s what we know so far about the pill. (Read: PSA: COVID-19 Vaccination Guidelines For Minors)


Photo from NECN

In a recent international clinical trial of 775 unvaccinated and high-risk people, it is said that the pill is shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by approximately one-half. In data released by Merck, molnupiravir demonstrated consistent efficacy across viral variants Gamma, Delta, and Mu. 

“The incidence of any adverse event was comparable in the molnupiravir and placebo groups (35% and 40%, respectively). Similarly, the incidence of drug-related adverse events was also comparable (12% and 11%, respectively). Fewer subjects discontinued study therapy due to an adverse event in the molnupiravir group (1.3%) compared to the placebo group (3.4%),” the data noted.

In a news report from ABS CBN, Tamesis said he is optimistic about the anti-COVID pill, but the Philippines will not secure it for an emergency use authority. Hospitals can use molnupiravir for COVID treatment with a special permit from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The World Health Organization (WHO) did not release any statements yet about the anti-COVID pill. (Read: YouTube Bans Content Spreading Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccines)

How does it work?

George Painter is a professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development and CEO of Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE). DRIVE developed EIDD-2801, also known as molnupiravir, an anti-viral pill for COVID-19. (Photo from Emory University)

Molnupiravir works by preventing the COVID-19 virus from multiplying and destroying more cells. Once metabolized by the body, it incorporates “RNA-like building blocks” into the virus’ genome, disrupting replication and causing mutations that stop it from spreading.

Experts reminded the public that the pill is not seen as an alternative to vaccines. However, it may work alongside any vaccine brand. They are also observing the progression of the pill to people at risk, with cardiac and pulmonary problems, diabetes, obesity, and senior citizens aged 60 and above.

Tamesis explained that the treatment course is expected to last for five days, with the patient receiving 800 mg of molnupiravir per day. The pill should be administered during the early stages of infection or within the first five days of symptoms to maximize its effect in COVID-19 patients. (Read: What’s the Difference Between CoronaVac, AstraZeneca, Moderna, etc?)

Despite the positive outcome of the anti-COVID pill, the public still needs to get inoculated for protection against the virus. 

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